Hunters and Company of Ayr

(1773-1843)

Founding Members

Hunters & Company of Ayr was established in 1773, with a capital of £10,000. The most prominent partner was James Hunter.  He had worked as Cashier for the Ayr Banking Company (John MacAdam & Co.) from 1763, until its amalgamation with the Ayr Bank (Douglas, Heron & Company) in 1771.  The latter had failed spectacularly in 1772. It was partly to fill the void that Hunters & Company was established.

Hunters and Company £1 note, 1829
Hunters and Company £1 note, 1829.

The five partners included James' brother Robert, and his son-in-law, William Wood. There was also a secret partner - another James Hunter.

This one was associated with the Edinburgh private bank, Sir William Forbes, James Hunter and Company. His older brother, Major William Hunter of Brownhill, completed the partnership. But when the involvement of the Edinburgh banker became public, James Hunter withdrew from the Ayr partnership. He feared the association would damage his other business interests – a reflection of the continuing negative impact of the Ayr Bank failure on all banks associated with the town.

In August 1776, the principal founding partner, James Hunter, died. He was replaced by John Ballantine, a friend of Robert Burns.

Later History

In 1821, Hunters & Co. took over the business of the Kilmarnock Banking Company. The managing partner from this date on, until 1841, was William Cowan. Cowan also served several terms as the Provost of Ayr.

A new contract of partnership was drawn up in 1841, increasing their numbers to ten. The partners comprised William Cowan; Charles D. Gairdner; William Niven of Kirkbride; Andrew Hunter of Bonnytoun; W. Campbell of Netherplace; Alexander Hunter, W.S.; Hugh Cowan (nephew of William); Cuthbert Cowan (son of William); Alexander Paterson; and Patrick Charles, from Surrey.

By this time, however, the company was struggling to compete against the large joint-stock banks. In 1843, its business was acquired by the Union Bank of Scotland.

Return to the Bank of Scotland family tree.

Further Information

  • The History of the Union Bank of Scotland by Robert Rait (John Smith & Son Ltd., Glasgow, 1930), chapter 8.
  • A small number of archives relating to Hunters & Company of Ayr are held by Lloyds Banking Group Archives in Edinburgh - for further information see our archive collections.